Step I: Realisation

I probably should have realized. It probably shouldn't have taken me the better part of ten years, give or take, to figure out something as simple as the fact that I was in love with Blink.

Blink has been my best friend forever, and beyond that, Blink literally is the boy next door. It's practically teenage law that we had to fall in love. Well, if you ignore the part about me being gay. Even the way we met, way back when I was in first grade and Blink was in second, screamed for romance to blossom.

All right, sorry, I got a bit carried away there. Still, it is a cute, tell-the-grandchildren kind of story. Back in the first grade, I was a shy kid. My first day of school, I hardly spoke to anyone, and when the other kids played together at recess, I just watched, waiting for someone to ask me to join in. The first day, no one did, but the second day, I was sitting on the same bench I'd been sitting on the day before, and Blink sat down next to me. I vaguely knew Blink ( though he wasn't actually Blink back then, he was Ryan) – he'd moved in next door a few weeks earlier and my parents had dragged me over to say hello, but beyond that, I'd hardly seen him. Blink was in second grade, and when I was seven, one year older seemed like a lifetime.

"You wanna play tag with us, Matthew?" he asked me, grinning at me with that infectious grin he has, blond hair falling in his eyes (he always waits until it's falling into his eyes before getting it cut, even now) and I looked around, not believing he was talking to me. A second grader talking to someone as small as me? I just managed to nod my head, just barely. He grinned and punched me on the arm. "Tag! You're it!" He ran off, and I raced after him. And every day after that, if I was alone at recess, he and his friends would let me join in their games – eventually, some of kids in my class noticed, and started talking to me; after all, I was the cool kid who got to play with the second graders.

I've gotten a lot less shy since then, and much better at befriending people, but Blink and I are still friends. I mean, we're close, like I-can't-remember-do-I-live-in-this-house-or-do-you kind of close. He's the one person in the world who I trust completely, and he's also the person I depend on most in my life. I mean, come on, Blink and I? We're still going to be friends twenty, thirty years from now. We've been through everything together – the birth of his little brother, my sister moving out. I was the one Blink's mother called after he was in the car accident that meant he had to wear an eye patch for six months. I even stuck with him when he decided that having an eye patch meant he was a pirate, and we all had to call him Captain Blink for five months, back when he was nine. Blink spent the weekend at my house when his dad was taken to the hospital after having a heart attack - he survived, thankfully - and when I discovered I was gay, Blink was the one who kept me from freaking out completely, even though I still think he was a little freaked out by it himself. Blink's the kind of friend who comes to chorus events just because I'm in them, rather than because he really likes them. Of course, I return the favour by turning up at almost every baseball game he plays (and occasionally, I even go to a Yankee game with him, Jack and by extension, David. I usually spend the whole game talking with David, sure, but it's the thought that counts).

Like I said, it's pretty amazing it took me as long as it did to realize I was in love with him.

When I finally did, it wasn't anything big. Well, of course that's not true. It was a huge, gigantic, earth shattering thing. But, I don't know, I guess I always expected lightening bolts, confetti and violins in the background, or at least instantaneous attraction. I didn't expect, well, Blink.

It happened during lunch, which is utterly unromantic. I was eating lunch with Jack, David, Race and Blink, as always. Race, Jack and Blink have been friends almost as long as Blink and I have – Race and Jack were two of the second graders who let me join in, and I've always been pretty good friends with them as well as Blink. I could hardly avoid being friends with them; they spend huge amounts of time at Blink's house. Though Jack hasn't been around nearly as often after David started last year. David and I became friends first – he was in four of my classes last year, and I'm a nice guy, so I kind of took him under my wing, introduced him to a few other people in our year, but he mostly talked to me at first. At least until he and Jack got properly introduced, then, well, sparks happened (don't tell them I said that. David, despite being out, claims that he has no feelings other than friendship for Jack. I don't believe him). David and I are still pretty close – it's nice to have someone else to talk to other than Blink (and his friends – they're sweet enough, but insane and sports fans) once in a while, and I like David better than most of the friends I have in my year.

And I managed to get off the point. I'm sorry; I have a tendency to ramble. Not as bad as Blink though – you should see him when he gets nervous. The point was it happened during lunch. What should have been a completely normal lunch. Race, Jack and Blink were arguing about something to do with the baseball. Or football. Or maybe soccer. I wasn't paying that much attention, I generally ignore them once they get started on sports. David was reading The Great Gatsby or something, for his AP English class. Or maybe not, considering; David's the kind of person who'd read something like that for fun. All in all, it was pretty ordinary. And then Blink realized he'd forgotten his lunch. You'd be surprised how often it happens – Blink is the most forgetful person I know. Anyway, I knew he'd be complaining about it soon enough, so I passed him one of my sandwiches and my water bottle. My mother always packs huge lunches anyway, and like I said, it wasn't the first time Blink forgot.

"Thanks, Mush," he said, grinning at me, and I grinned back, because I can't help it when he grins at me like that, teeth showing and hair falling in his eyes. Across the table from me, David rolled his eyes.

"Blink, why don't you get your mother to remind you about your lunch?" he asked. Race laughed.

"Why should she? Blink's got Mush for that." Blink laughed at that, the real mouth-open, glad-to-be-alive laugh he has and I caught myself thinking I could watch him laughing forever. There's something about Blink when he's happy – he's beautiful. And there I was, in lunch, staring at my best friend of ten years, give or take, and just realizing that he was beautiful. And that I wanted to make him laugh like that.

Of course, it didn't click right then, it just freaked me out. It clicked in algebra of all places. Of course, I wasn't concentrating on the class at all; my mind was filled with Blink. Blink laughing, Blink standing up for me when a guy from school called me fag, Blink looking scared and worried and so young while we were waiting for news about his father, Blink and I wrestling in my room, Blink tickling me to distract me from my homework. Blink in his baseball uniform, him at my chorus recitals, trying not to fall asleep. The way that he's always grumpy in the morning. His arms around me, trying to get the remote when we argued about what to watch on TV (Blink has a thing for cartoon network and I refuse to indulge something like that). Blink touching me in general.

Blink and I touched a lot. I wondered why I'd never really thought about it before. About how touching Blink was more comfortable than touching anyone else I'd ever known. How just seeing Blink made me a little happier.

And that's when realization hit.